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Tag: Advice


Ambient Time

8.     Use ambient time. I often hear people telling their family, colleagues and friends that they don’t have time to do scratch their heads. Far too busy to meet for that after work drink, to write letters, to make a phone call, or take on a project. But stop. Look at your life. Really look at it. Could the minutes you spend wasting time… standing in a bus queue, waiting for the kettle to boil, sitting at the traffic lights in your car, be harnessed?. Spend a day with a stopwatch. Time it all. Time the lost moments, and the half-spent hours. That time can be used. I’m not saying it’s sensible to write letters, say, while you’re driving. But you could be listening to self help books or even novels on an iPod. And you could be planning projects. And even better, you could be multi-tasking as they call it across the Atlantic. Doing three or four things at once. I look at my life and I’m rarely doing one thing. Even while writing this I’m paying the electricity bill, planning the afternoon, and thinking about an email I have to reply to on shrunken heads.



Problem Solving

7.     Learn to solve problems. See yourself as a problem solving machine. There’s very little as important to me as solving problems. Teaching our children and those around us to solve problems is a way of giving them an invaluable tool. We often find ourselves unable to crack a problem that’s smothering our lives. If this happens, put a space between you and the problem and look at it from a distance. Imagine it’s your best friend’s problem and not your own, and then start to work out what your friend could do to solve it. And remember that the best route to solving a problem is seldom a straight line.



6.     Learn to reuse material. I am a believer that good material deserves to be packaged in different ways, and that most people miss key stuff on the first time. By being exposed again and again to specific ideas, they get increased value. Think of it like this: if you were to shine a shaft of light on an apple from the top looking down on it, you’d see the stalk. But you wouldn’t see the smooth sides or the base. But by presenting the same object (or idea) from varying viewpoints and angles, the viewer gets a far greater understanding.




5.     Help others in any way you can. When I was starting out writing, I’d send unsolicited letters to a lot of people, asking for quotes or for them to read my work. Many of them didn’t write back. But some did. And those people are the ones who I hold in my heart. Any author has a little time to read letters from the public, and they all have time to help those who want to break in. Of course there are limits, and sometimes people send me work I can’t help with… but I believe that helping total strangers is a wonderful thing, especially helping people who have what it takes to succeed.




4.     Value your time and time yourself. I’m a writer and so most of the time there’s no boss standing over me, or no system of clocking in and out. That means it’s pretty easy to deceive myself and slack off. But I’ve come to understand the importance of giving true value to the hours you have between waking and sleeping… those hours are full of astonishing possibility, each minute is in fact. But you mustn’t take them for granted. Regard each day as the last you will breathe and your outlook changes. I have taken to putting a timer on my desk, so that I can challenge myself at doing the more boring stuff (filing, accounts etc). It has worked for me.




3. Remember kindness and help from others and repay it. I’m a big believer in paying back into the system and not taking more out of it than you’ve paid it. I rarely ask favours of people, and when I do, I make sure that I repay those who have helped me, at once. Beyond that, I think it’s extremely important to remember the people who have given advice and help especially in the hard times, times when others didn’t even give you the time of day. Those people are true friends.



2.     Never undervalue yourself. We spend so much time listening to others and not listening to ourselves, that we often find ourselves spiralling downwards, into a pit of gloom, lacking in self worth. But if you switch this outlook of gloom, with one of enthusiasm, self-belief, amazing things start to happen almost at once. It’s miraculous. Believe in yourself and no one else and the impossible becomes possible.



The Front Door

1.     Never ever go in through the front door. The society in which many of us live teaches us to jump through hoops in an order and route of their specification. It’s partly so that the teachers can maintain control, and partly because they actually believe that the way they are teaching is of use. The truth is that you can reach your ultimate goal a whole lot quicker by using original thought. Plan a zigzag route, any route and life the universe and everything will take you to the front of the queue.


New Blog...

I am starting my blog again to spew out some advice, tips and random ideas on things I find interesting, as well as those that have been helpful to me. Each day I’ll add a line or two, but no more than that. I prefer that anyone who reads any of this spends a moment thinking about the central idea. I’m doing this because I think it’s valuable, and because it’s easier not to do it at all.

I’m going to start with the main rules for getting ahead…


July 8, 2008 Posted by tahir in Travel


Guilt is a big thing for me, a kind of grease that lubricates my life. Without it, I’d be sitting on the couch with my feet up, daydreaming. Or asleep, or gorging myself on ravioli with extra cheese. I don’t know why I feel it, deep in my bones, but the guilt’s always there. It grinds away, tormenting me day and night.

I never feel as if I’ve done enough work, or good enough work, or that I’ve exercised enough (which I never have), or that I’ve got enough going on. I’m the rat in the wheel spinning faster and faster. And however fast I go, it’s not enough. Because the guilt’s chasing me, reminding me that I could go even faster still.

 I look at other people and they don’t seem to have the same angst. Or if they do, they hide it very well. Rachana certainly doesn’t have it. Most of the time she thinks I’m mad. You see, she’s much calmer than me, and she gets stuff done, but without the anguish. While I hurtle to and fro in a frenzy… the guilt devil jabbing me with his trident, she drifts serenely through the day getting plenty done .

I sometimes wonder why I am like I am, why Rachana is how she is, and why everyone else is how they are. Is it natural programming, or something learnt? Nature or nurture?

It must be a little of both.

But then how ever did the guilt get into my genes?  Did I have guilt-ridden ancestors, hounded like me through history? And if so, how did they fare? And the portion that’s learnt… by what lessons and encounters could all that guilt have eased into my head?

So here I am, intoxicated with guilt, so greatly so that I’ve resorted to writing a blog about my preoccupation. If there’s an upside it’s that I’m often coaxed on to do things that I don’t want to do, but that I know the guilt devil will be thrilled with.

Once in a while I get so overladen with guilt that I can’t do anything at all. I just sit there on the couch fretting. I pretend that I’m thinking, or working on an idea, but I’m not. The other day, our maid Zohra found me in the sitting room staring into space. I tapped a finger across my lips pensively as if I was coming up with a big thought. She looked at me hard, narrowed her eyes.

‘You are not thinking of anything at all,’ she said.

‘But I am, really I am.’

‘No,’ replied Zohra. ‘I can tell.’


‘Because your eyes are bloodshot,’ she said.